This Day in History: 1947-03-15

Lt. Commander John W. Lee Jr. becomes the first Black commissioned Navy officer. The late Navy man made it his personal mission to aid other qualified Black servicemen in his branch to get the same opportunities he did. Lee was born February 13, 1924 and raised in Indianapolis, Indiana, entering the Navy during WWII. After boot camp, he was admitted into the V-12 Officer Candidate Program at Indianapolis’ DePauw University and graduated as an Ensign. Lee believed other Black Navy men could have become officers and worked behind the scenes to move things into that direction. Lee also served in WWII and the Korean War. In 1960, Lee became the commanding officer of the Oceanographic Detachment Two division. Before his retirement in 1966, Lee served on the NATO staff in Paris and left the Navy with the rank of Lieutenant Commander. Afterwards, he worked two years for Indianapolis’ Naval Avionics Center. Learn more.